Leigh take their time to exploit the class of Rowley

Leigh 30 Barrow 12
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The Independent Online

The side that looked destined for Super League for much of last season began their new Northern Ford Premiership campaign with an uneven display at Hilton Park yesterday. This looked like the first hesitant step on a long road, but in among the rust and cobwebs was an accomplished second debut from Paul Rowley, as well as promising contributions from other new signings.

Leigh, however, will not be able to give genuine title contenders the sort of latitude they allowed to Barrow early on as the visitors took the lead through Matthew Leigh's pass to Mike Whitehead. It took them the best part of half an hour to sort themselves out and it was, not surprisingly, Neil Turley who put them on the right path.

Turley became the first Leigh player to score 50 tries in a season last time and he opened his account once more with a poacher's effort as he followed up Willie Swann's kick. Turley also took over the goal-kicking duties, landing five from six attempts, but he did not have things all his own way in open play. He looked to be on his way to the line again after latching on to Rowley's clever break, but was caught by the impressive Paul Salmon.

Barrow were still overstretched in defence, however, and Jon Roper marked his first appearance for the club by scoring. Liam Bretherton and another newcomer, the former Wigan second-rower, Andrew Isherwood, also scored in the second half to suggest that Leigh might run away with it.

Instead, further untidiness crept into their play and they were lucky to get away with it when Wayne Jones ran out of fuel after taking an interception. There was no such luck when Darren Holt's intercept gave Salmon a similar chance, as there was no catching a winger who looks to have the makings of a Super League player.

Leigh at least finished strongly, with Rowley getting a richly deserved try from close-range after good work by Simon Baldwin. Rowley was rightly named as Man of the Match on his return to his home town club after seasons in Super League with Halifax and Huddersfield. Once Leigh learn to run off his intelligent distribution, they could become as hard to beat as they were last season.

Leigh: Turley; Irwin, Anderson, Roper, Bretherton; Swann, Purtill; Whittle, Rowley, Bradbury, Baldwin, Isherwood, Bristow. Substitutes used: Ball, Price, Ingram, Kendrick.

Barrow: Lockhart; Salmon, Atkinson, Marsh, Irabor; Bowker, Winstanley; Liku, Henderson, Rawlinson, Jackson, Whitehead, Leigh. Substitutes used: Hoult, Luxon, Jones, Burns.

Referee: J King (St Helens).